After three weeks, Palestinian teachers say “Dignity for teachers” and “We continue”…
As West Bank school teachers entered the fourth week of a total strike on Monday, 7 March, more than 3,000 rallied outside the Palestinian prime minister’s office demanding new representation in negotiations between teachers and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
An emergency meeting called on Sunday evening ended in a stalemate, as teachers rejected terms laid out by a number of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the legislative body of the Authority.
Teachers complained that members of the PLO-affiliated teachers’ union, who had previously been forced to resign by popular demand, should not have been present at the meeting. The teachers at the protest accused the union of “thwarting” agreements with the Palestinian government.
Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has released a statement “reaffirm(ing) his commitment to Palestinian teachers, students and their parents to work on finding an equitable solution to end the teachers’ strike, in order for students to return to their classrooms.”
According to the Prime Minister, “The Palestinian teacher deserves our respect and admiration; however, everyone should put the interest of our children and their education ahead of everything.”
“People have the right to express their opinion,” said the Prime Minister, “this is part of the democratic process.” However, the strikers said that checkpoints had been set up by the PA in an attempt to stop them from reaching the protest.
A number of strikers have already been detained by PA security forces, who have sought to prevent the demonstrations by installing checkpoints across the West Bank and threatening public transportation drivers carrying teachers to protests.
The teachers have been on strike since mid-February. They are demanding that the PA honours a 2013 agreement to increase salaries which has not yet been implemented.
The PA has threatened to take legal action against the teachers if they do not return to work immediately. But participants who made it to the latest rally carried posters saying that teachers would continue with the strike until their demands were met.
The strike marks one of the largest demonstrations against the PA in recent years, with 20,000 teachers marching in Ramallah last month, and it has exposed a divide in Palestinian society, with several small attacks taking place in recent days.
A Hebron teacher was attacked with pepper spray over her support for the protest, and gunshots have been fired on the homes of two more teachers — one supporting the strike, the other opposing it.
Story and pictures from Ma’an News Agency (MNA).
The agency was launched in 2005 with funding from the Danish Representative Office to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Netherlands Representative Office to the PA. MNA publishes news around the clock in Arabic and English, and claims to be among the most browsed websites in the Palestinian territories, with over 3 million visits per month. It says it is the premier source of independent Palestinian news on the internet with over 3 million visits a month.
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